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Not For Her, But With Her

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Sometimes the first time I hear or know of an idea or concept is when it is “all worded up” and coming out of my mouth. This may be because I am an incurable smart-ass who never put certain filters into place. Often, this can be a source of consternation for me and can give Linda an opportunity to exercise her eye-rolling muscles. However, sometimes it is an inspiration that has some quality to it—even some power.

This happened a while back when Linda and I were snowshoeing across Bridal Lake in the Canadian Selkirks. The sky was a clear bright blue; the color you can only get when over six thousand feet. We walked in two feet of soft white powder over a base of several feet setting on the ice of the lake.

We were relaxing and celebrating after Linda finished her chemo and radiation treatments. We did it by getting away.

Treatments had started about three months before and had been quite an ordeal. It was a daily process that caused discomfort—even pain—to Linda’s skin and the inside of her mouth.

Shortly after her diagnosis I got a call from one of my good friends. He said this situation we were facing comes under the “In sickness and in health” clause in our vows. I pretty much rejected that idea because it sounded like some kind of duty or sacrifice on my part. Even then I was not feeling I was reacting out of duty. I did not feel like a victim or a martyr, yet I was doing what needed to be done, as it appeared to me.

Another good friend sent me a message saying this is a nine on the take-care-of-me scale. I wondered how I would do that, too.

As we got further into the procedure, some of our friends and supporters said I was “handling it” like a hero. I could never get comfortable with that either; I didn’t feel like a hero. Still, as we worked through the protocol I could not put a description to how I felt about my part of the undertaking.

There were a few times when I was able to feel myself becoming a whiney butt and I knew I needed to get out of my way. I usually called one of our supporters and worked my way back to simply being. Simply being was all I could call it at the time.

Finally, we did get through it all and that is why we were high in the mountains of British Columbia. It was as we were trekking on our last day there I heard something come out of my mouth I do not remember giving any thought or plan to.

Linda, just a few days out of treatment and not fully recovered from its effects, was snowshoeing in the trail I broke. She needed to stop often to deal with her fatigue and the elevation. She isn’t used to needing to do that so it took some discipline on her part. After one of those stops she told me how she appreciated my patience with her; she even sounded a little apologetic. That is when I heard myself say, “I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it with you.”

It struck me as soon as I heard it. The phrase was perfect for what we were doing at the time and it also described my part of our journey through cancer treatments.

We are two very individual people who have chosen to be one couple. That means in a very important part of our lives we are one. When I heard that comment it started to make sense. For us, and our relationship, there was no other way to do it—I did it with her.

Curiously, as I followed that thought process, I realized I agreed with my friend when he said this falls under the “In sickness and in health” clause of our marriage. I just didn’t know what that clause meant before. It isn’t out of duty, it isn’t a sacrifice, I am not a martyr or a victim or a hero. But it is how I was able to take care of myself at a level of nine as suggested.

All I did was love. One of the lessons of this journey just may be some of the answer to that mystery we call love.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

marriage, cancer, The Hawks Nest

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